A Japanese architect has won a prestigious award for creating a new map, because it shows the world as it really is. The AuthaGraph World Map angles continents in order to show their true distance from one another.

 The world map
Image: AuthaGraph World Map

Hajime Narukawa won the Good Design Award, beating over 1,000 entries in a variety of categories.

“The AuthaGraph World Map provides an advanced precise perspective of our planet,” explain the organizers of the award.

Not only that, but the map can then be transformed into a globe.

 World maps
Image: AuthaGraph World Map

Why is this news?

Ever since we first set sail to explore the world, humans have wanted to record what they saw and experienced. Mapping the world became a way of depicting our discoveries and helping sailors navigate.

The map we are used to seeing depicts the world as flat, but it distorts the sizes of the continents, as this interactive map shows. Countries in the northern hemisphere appear much bigger than those in the south, when, in fact, the reality can be the opposite.

 World map 3
Image: AuthaGraph World Map

For example, this still from the interactive map depicts the United States of America superimposed onto Brazil, and shows that the US barely covers it. In traditional maps, the US looks larger than the whole of the South American continent.

Africa is a lot bigger than we think

It’s a similar story with the African continent. Traditional maps lead us to believe that Africa is similar in size to Greenland.

But this map, created by Kai Krause, a graphical user interface designer, shows just how enormous Africa really is.

While this map has been criticized for a lack of accuracy, Kraus says that’s not the point:

“This was not at all an attempt to create “an accurate map”, it was merely a simple graphical depiction of the statement: Africa is just immense – much, much larger than you or I thought.”

 The true size of Africa
Image: Creative Commons

Maps about people

Moving on from sheer geographical size, the maps that follow give us a fascinating insight into people – where they live, and where they move to.

Created by Paul Breding at ODT Maps, it shows the original, vertical map, but sized according to population. It shows, for example, that the populations of India and China dwarf those of North America and Europe. The size of Nigeria and Brazil compared to the rest of Africa and Latin America is equally apparent.

Canada, Russia and Australia are tiny by comparison.

 Cartogram
Image: World Population Cartogram 2015

Where people go

This map tells us about migration. It shows the estimated net immigration (those coming in minus those going out) by origin and destination country between 2010 and 2015.

Blue circles show where more people have come in to the country than left. Red circles show that more people have left than have arrived. Each yellow dot represents 1,000 people.

The map shows that the UK, for example, experienced positive net migration between 2010 and 2015 by over half a million people, and that migration into the UK is global.

 Net migration figures
Image: UN Population Division

Where does your food come from?

The food system is completely global. Today, almost 70% of crops that form the basis of a national diet come from another region. For example, tomatoes, a staple of the Italian diet, originated in the Andes. Apples originated in Asia and Europe. Strawberries originated in North and South America.

This interactive map allows you to see where different food products come from.

 Origin of crops
Image: CIAT

How cities spread

Ever wondered where the world's first cities were? This animated map shows how urban civilizations developed over a time span of nearly 6,000 years.

Blogger Max Galka created the visualization for his Metrocosm site using data from a new study published in the journal Scientific Nature Data. It charts how cities popped up, one by one, from as far back as 3700 BC to the year AD 2000.

 History of world urbanization
Image: Metrocosm

These all show how maps, in all their forms, help us to understand the world around us. Hopefully for the better.